Tears in Athens for Brighton & Hove Albion – before another VAR farce at Stamford Bridge
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There’s no doubting AEK could and should have had the game in Athens last Thursday sewn up by half-time, but they didn’t. The Albion perhaps rode their luck in the first period but dug in, and in the end were worthy winners – and their third win in the group set up a ‘winner takes all’ scenario with Marseille at the Amex next Thursday.
Despite some indifferent results in the league in the respective Sunday games after, the European campaign so far has been an experience I will never forget, and perhaps represents one of the greatest Albion comebacks in the club’s history.
Some 110 minutes or so into their debut season in Europe, Brighton had lost 3-2 to Athens at home and were 2-0 down against an apparent rampant Marseille in the south of France.
From that moment on that balmy night in France, the Albion have been nothing short of astounding: they pulled it back to 2-2 that night, then beat Ajax home and away before despatching AEK last Thursday.
The only downside of an eventful night in the legendary city was the Greek police’s decision to tear-gas their own fans outside the ground – an act that resulted in the gas wafting back into the stadium and affecting the innocent Albion support being kept in for their own good.
At 59, I’ve seen a fair bit a football down the years, but the distress and upset that caused to many Albion fans is something I never want to see again. Hopefully UEFA will be asking the relevant questions to the Greek authorities.
But then it was back to Blighty and unfortunately what now appears to be the obligatory post-Europe disappointment.
The stats show 68% possession, 18 shots to Chelsea’s eight, nine on target to the Blues’ five, yet a 3-2 win for the home team will be the only relevant stat.
VAR reared its ugly head again, with a contentious penalty award at a pivotal time in the game, 10-man Chelsea, leading 2-1 but under intense pressure from the visitors, that’s all in the stats.
Nothing, not VAR nor the panel on MOTD, will convince me that was a penalty, but it proved to be a game changer.
So again, it all comes down to VAR, it’s almost tiresome going over every time the Albion are apparently ‘wronged’.
VAR and the EPL just seem totally inept when it comes to this process.
Let’s hope it’s not déjà vu with the back-to-back home games this week against Brentford and Burnley respectively, were nothing less than six points will do.